LIES, DAMN LIES, AND STATISTICS: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America by Michael Wheeler

LIES, DAMN LIES, AND STATISTICS: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America

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An acidulous account of how ""the newest profession in existence"" has, in the words of Bums Roper, ""managed to take on many of the characteristics of the world's oldest profession."" Public-opinion polls, in Wheeler's view, are as questionable as the market-research techniques from which they sprang. This subtle political weapon came into its own in 1960 with Lou Harris' erratic but widely ballyhooed work for the Kennedy campaign. Since then even the most ""objective"" pollsters have been known to tailor their ""research"" to the expectations of particular political interests. If the polls are unreliable as a guide to the standings of candidates (e.g., the poll-engineered demise of Muskie in '68), they are utterly treacherous as an index of national attitudes toward issues (notoriously the Vietnam War, which was reflected in a new ""public opinion"" chimera every other day). The public is routinely made to say that black is white (or ought to stay in its own neighborhood) by strategic phrasing of questions, sloppy or faked legwork on the part of interviewers, or adjustment of sampling-error parameters to achieve the ""right"" results. Although legislation is afoot to police obvious charlatans, what is really needed is public awareness of the entire parademocratic apparatus that is doing an increasing amount of our ""voting"" without benefit of constitutional safeguards or open debate. Despite the absence of bibliography or methodological information, this detailed classical exposed deserves the widest possible attention.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1976
Publisher: Liveright